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Betsy DeVos Watch: Title IX listening sessions give voice to anti-feminist groups that minimize sexual assault and rape on campus

July 18, 2017

Last Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hosted what she called a “Title IX Listening session.”

The media release for the event stated that, “DeVos announced she will convene a diverse group of stakeholders at the Department of Education Thursday, July 13 to discuss the impact of the Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance on students, families and institutions.”

Sounds like it was a good thing to do. However, upon closer examination, some of the “stakeholders” that DeVos had invited were made up mostly of mens groups that are anti-feminist and are making the claim that too often women on campus are wrongfully accusing men of committing sexual assault.

Some of the organizations invite by Betsy DeVos are groups like National Coalition for Men Carolinas, which is a chapter of a national organization. This organization’s website states the following:

Men are easy targets, often staying silent while being publicly attacked by radical feminists and the media. But that is changing. Men are uniting and standing their ground against anti-male hatred and directed discrimination.

Besides their anti-feminist propaganda, one thing that the National Coalition for Men does is publish photos, names, and biographical details of women who have accused men—falsely, the National Coalition for Men insists—of rape. Its members routinely bring lawsuits against women-only networking groups and social events, crying discrimination.

Another group invited by Secretary DeVos to the Title IX listening session was Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (Save). SAVE is another anti-feminist organization that believes that campuses are experiencing “rape culture hysteria.”

According to a recent article on Slate.com, “The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified SAVE, which opposes rules that prevent defense attorneys from entering evidence of a survivor’s sexual history in a rape trial, as a planet in the “manosphere” of misogynist online forums. SAVE lobbies against domestic violence protections, claims that the “leading reason” for abuse is “female initiation of partner violence,” and calls falsely accused perpetrators the “true victims of abuse.” 

One addition group invited to the Title IX listening sessions was Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE). The FACE website is full of videos, commentary and links that make the claim that too many men on college campuses across the US are being falsely accused of sexual assault and rape.

Sexual Assault and rape at US campuses across the country are a serious matter, but the new administration, through the efforts of Betsy DeVos, are making it clear that they want to overturn the gains made by women’s groups who have fought against violence for decades.

The Michigan Student Power group has been circulating a petition in response to Betsy DeVos’s Title IX listening sessions, which provides some useful analysis of last week’s meeting.

Individual behavior, not collective liberation: Why DeVos Family foundation funding compliments AmplifyGR

July 17, 2017

During the AmplifyGR-hosted meeting on June 29, Doug DeVos stated that he and his wife have been, “active in many of the non-profit agencies that are here in this neighborhood.”

This statement prompted me to look at the 990 documents from all of the DeVos Family foundations to see how much money they have collectively contributed to non-profits that are based in the neighborhoods that AmplifyGR is operating or those that do work in those neighborhoods.

We found several non-profits that are currently operating in the area that AmplifyGR is targeting with their development plans. I then sent an e-mail to each of the organizations that are working in the designated area and have received DeVos Foundation money to ask them the following two questions.

First, does your organization have a position on the AmplifyGR development proposal for the Boston Square & Cottage Grove areas in the southeast part of Grand Rapids?

Second, your organization is listed as having been a recipient of funds from a DeVos Foundation between 2013 – 2016 (the most recent 990s available). Since your organization relies on DeVos Family funding, is there financial pressure to support the AmplifyGR development proposal? (Note: I looked at the 990 documents from 2013 – 2016 for the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Dan & Pamela DeVos Foundation and the CDV5 Foundation, founded by Cheri DeVos)

What follows is a listing of the organizations I contacted, what their response was, a summary of the kind of work that they do and how much money they received from DeVos Foundations between 2013 – 2016.

Baxter Community Center’s mission “seeks to reveal God’s love by responding to human needs in its community through effective programs and partnerships.” Baxter Community Center provides a variety of social services, educational services and skill building opportunities.

The Executive Director of Baxter Community Center, Melanie Beelen, responded to the questions by saying: “1. Baxter Community Center does not have a position on the Amplify GR proposal. It is our understanding that at this point, they are still collectively getting information from others. 2. We have not received any pressure one way or another from the DV families regarding Amplify GR.” There are two Amway representatives who sit on the Baxter Community Center Board.

Exhalta Health (formerly Health Intervention Services) “was established in 1996 by local physicians, nurses, social workers, pastors, and business people to serve underprivileged women with faith-centered medical care. The acronym HIS was created to represent the Christian motivation for service.” The Executive Assistant Theressa Hoekstra responded to our questions by saying, “We have had no pressure from the AmplifyGR group.”

Restorers Inc. mission “is to show Christ’s love by promoting long-term sustainable change in families and neighborhood. We do this through unified committed relationships between community and church so that greater dignity and quality of life are achieved.” They provide entrepreneur programs for people wanting to start their own business, youth mentoring programs and work closely with Believe 2 Become. Restorers Inc. did not respond to our questions.

SpringGR is an entrepreneurial training program located in Grand Rapids, MI. This program provides training, mentoring, and networking opportunities designed for aspiring entrepreneurs from neighborhoods of few entrepreneurial opportunities to develop a thriving business. SpringGR works closely with Start Garden, one of the businesses projects that Rick DeVos runs. SpringGR did not respond to our questions.

Oakdale Neighbors is a Christian community development organization. Its goal is to create a neighborhood of grace and vitality by discovering, developing, and connecting skills and resources. Their response was: “Oakdale Neighbors has not taken a formal position on the development proposal. We try to build productive relationships with many partners and potential partners in the city.” I did speak with Tom Bulten from Oakdale Neighbors on the phone and he informed me that AmplifyGR had contracted with Seeds of Promise and Oakdale Neighbors to go door to door in the area and conduct a survey of residents. Oakdale Neighbors does list the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation and CDV5 Foundation as two of its partners. 

Jubilee Jobs’ mission “is to serve Christ by equipping and empowering the economically underserved toward self-sufficiency, emotional healing, and spiritual renewal.” Jubilee Jobs has a representative of Amway on its Board of Directors and lists Believe 2 Become as a community partner. Jubilee Jobs did not respond to our questions.

The Grand Rapids Urban League provides a variety of social services, like housing, education and employment. The mission of the Grand Rapids Urban League is to provide the means to empower African Americans and other minorities to achieve economic self-reliance, parity and civil rights. The Grand Rapids Urban League did not respond to our questions, but we did find something interesting on their website. You can see from this graphic that the CEO of Rockford Construction, Mike VanGessel, which is part of the AmplifyGR project, was given the Drum Major for Justice award.

Madison Square Church is part of the Christian Reformed Church. They have numerous ministries in the community, including youth and missions projects, particularly in Liberia. Pastor David Beelen responded to the questions by stating: “We do not have a position from our church in support of Amplify. And, although we are listed as getting funds from DeVos we were simply providing a fiduciary oversight function for one of our former pastors, Samuel Reeves, who is now pastoring in Liberia, West Africa and has used those funds to build and support a medical clinic there.  DeVos foundation has not applied pressure for us to support Amplify nor do I perceive pressure from them to support it.  On the contrary, we have used our place in the Madison community to pressure them to hold meetings, be fair to our neighbors and do their work in a manner that is just to our parish.

Linc Up, formerly Lighthouse Communities Inc, is an economic development entity, that also is involved in housing, education and some advocacy work. Linc Up has relied on DeVos Foundation money for most of its existence, until last year when the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation stopped providing funding. A great deal of the DeVos funding over the years was to contract with Linc Up to implement the Believe 2 Become program. Linc Up Executive Director Jeremy DeRoo responded to the questions with these comments: “In terms of Amplify GR I haven’t seen something that I would consider a “development proposal” but have heard them say they want to fill underutilized industrial space with businesses that will hire locally.  They also want to develop a large track of land in Boston square into something that will include affordable housing and more business opportunities.  They are also going to be starting a community engagement process at the end of the month to hear what the best way to do all that is.  LINC supports community driven processes that successfully create local jobs and affordable housing.”

The Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) is a non-profit housing organization that rehabilitates existing housing and builds new housing. Their mission statement says, At ICCF, we believe God desires our community to be a healthy and vibrant place for all people to have opportunity to flourish and have safe and beautiful homes they can afford.” ICCF did not respond to our questions. The organization does utilize as its primary construction partner, Rockford Construction, which is part of the AmplifyGR project.

It is also important to mention Believe 2 Become, a program which not only provides a mechanism for inserting faith-based dynamics in the Grand Rapids Public School system, it provides a means to develop workforce talent, as their most recent report acknowledges. Both Doug DeVos and Mike VanGessel are intimately involved in Believe 2 Become. We include some of their comments about Believe 2 Become here.  It is also important to note that the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has been the largest contributor to Believe 2 Become, which was already mentioned, is a partner with several of the entrepreneurial programs listed above. 

It seems clear that the kinds of organizations that the DeVos Family foundations are funding that are working in or based in the southeast part of the city that is being targeted under the AmplifyGR project are social service agencies, Christian groups and organizations focused on entrepreneurial opportunities. What these organization don’t do is provide any real analysis of systemic oppression or skill building for challenging systems of power. This seems rather obvious when one considers that the DeVos Family and their foundations are rooted in power, thus they would not want to provide funding that in anyway undermines their own power and this is exactly what the AmplifyGR project is all about…….not challenging systems of oppression and systems of power.

Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives hosts photo exhibit and film discussion on the 1967 riot

July 13, 2017

The Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, founded by George Bayard,  is currently hosting a photo exhibit on the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids.

The photo exhibit includes headlines from local newspapers and photos taken mostly by journalists who were present during the three days that the riot in Grand Rapids lasted in July of 1967.

The photo exhibit will last through July 30th at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, located at 87 Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The photo exhibit is available for viewing between noon and 5:00PM, Tuesday through Saturday and is free to the public.

In addition, the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives is producing a short documentary film about the 1967 riot, which will include interviews from several historians and some eye witnesses to the what took place from July 25 – 27th in 1967 in Grand Rapids just south of Wealthy Street between Division and Madison.

The documentary film on the 1967 riot will be shown at the GVSU downtown campus, in the Loosemore Auditorium, on July 25 between 6 – 8pm. After the film screening there will be a panel discussion on the same topic.

The Grand Rapids People’s History Project interviewed George Bayard last year on the mission of the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, which you can watch here below.

The Acton Institute defends White Supremacy and Imperialism, all in the name of Faith and Family

July 12, 2017

There are statements that politicians make all the time, that are often quite hollow and devoid of any real meaning. However, often, such statements are taken at face value to be truisms, like God and Country. These truism are both the result of extreme naivete and ideological constructs.

Last week, while President Trump was attending the G20 gathering of world leaders and imperialists, he invoked one of these truisms when he said, “We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.

Last Thursday, Rev. Ben Johnson, who writes for the Acton Institute, posted a piece reflecting on President Trump’s speech that was given last week in front of a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1943.

That Trump chose this location, the site of one of the most famous acts of Jewish Resistance during WWII, is in and of itself an insult to all those who have fought oppression. The United States is seen by millions around the world as an oppressor nation and an imperialist nation that has contributed to a tremendous amount of violence through war and economic exploitation.

However, the Acton Institute writer saw this declaration from President Trump at the Warsaw Ghetto uprising memorial site as visible sign that the United States in continuing a tradition of promoting faith and family foundational principles of this country.

Johnson then quotes Trump at length, where the President is speaking about Poland’s transition from Communism to Free Market Capitalism:

“Through four decades of Communist rule, Poland … endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity; indeed, the very essence of your culture and your humanity,” the president said. Yet despite the onslaught of a soulless system, the Polish people “stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police … and you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail.”

The Action Institute writer takes great joy in Trump’s assessment of Poland post-communism and believes that much of the “success” after communism had to do with people putting their faith in God.

However, we have learned since the fall of communism in Poland, is that many people have felt betrayed by the Solidarity government and its imposition of an economic shock doctrine on the country. This assessment is affirmed in Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, specifically her section on Poland, but if you prefer a more moderate source, this Harvard study (a shorter version appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs) draws many of the same conclusions that Klein does.

The Acton Institute writer then cites the US President’s condemnation of “radical Islamic terrorism” as the current threat to the United States. Johnson, again quotes Trump:

“While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people,” Trump said, “our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.”

Such a statement is both absurd and historically inaccurate. The US has closed its borders most often when refugees and immigrants have come from non-European and non-White countries, since the US has always embraced a White Supremacist immigration policy that has historically demonized the Chinese, Japanese, pretty much all of Latin America and some African nations as well. (see Aviva Chomsky’s book, Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal)

The statement by Trump is also absurd, since it doesn’t take into account that there have been and still are numerous domestic groups that advocate terrorism and extremism, such as the KKK, neo-nazi groups, Militia groups, Christian Identity groups and a whole list of organizations that embrace and promote White Supremacist and Xenophobic values. These groups are not only free to engage in all kinds of violent behavior, they are often supported by mainstream US society, which is tends to embrace White Supremacists values. (see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map)

Much of the rest of what Rev. Johnson has to say in his post on the Acton Institute website continues to extol the values of The West (read: White values), with particular emphasis on family, faith and free market capitalism.

While some may want to simply respond with a dismissive tone that, “this is Trump speaking, so of course he would say this shit.” The reality is that every US President has said uttered the same kinds of truisms that the current President did last week. The lessons we should walk away with are: 1) the Acton Institute is essentially an apologist for US imperialism; and 2) the Acton Institute is a very dangerous organization that promotes White Supremacy, Colonialism and the exploitative nature of neoliberal capitalism.

MLive’s fascinating facts about Henry Ford: False claims and glossing over Ford’s connection to Nazi Germany

July 11, 2017

On Friday, July 7, Mlive posted an article entitled, 14 Fascinating Facts about Henry Ford. 

The article, like much of contemporary journalism, centers around superficial aspects of personalities and celebrities. Most of the 14 facts would only interest those who seeks to understand the man and the entrepreneur, facts like where he was born, his interest in planes, his role as a father and that he may have fathered a child outside of marriage.

However, there were two “facts” included in the last of 14 that are worth discussing. One  claims that Ford invented the weekend or more specifically the 8 hour work day, and the other interesting “fact” identified Ford as an anti-Semite. Let’s begin with the 8 hour work day claim.

The MLive article states, “Ford is frequently credited for pioneering the five-day, 40-hour work week – reduced from six days and 48 hours – believing leisure time was not only beneficial and valuable for his workers, but also something to be enjoyed by all social and economic classes.”

This claim is just utter non-sense. Organized labor had been fighting for an 8 hour work day since the middle of the 19th century, with various trades adopting such a policy on a factory by factory basis. However, let us be clear by saying that no industry boss or capitalist ever just invented the weekend or gave workers an 8 hour day. Unions fought to make those gains, through a variety of tactics, including strikes, walkouts, work slowdowns and sabotage. The fact that any industry boss or capitalist ever agreed to an 8 hour work day was simply because it became too much of a financial risk to not grant workers the right to an 8 hour day.

It is no secret that Henry Ford hated organized labor. Ford hated unions so much that he hired former boxer Harry Bennett to head up the Ford Motor Company’s Service Department, “which was designed to suppress union organizing and strikes, and constituted to world’s largest private army, numbering between 3,500 and 6,000 men,” according to Sharon Smith’s book, Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States.

As for the claim that Henry Ford was an anti-Semite, this was true. The MLive post states the following:

“No doubt, Ford was a complicated man, and this is his ugly underbelly. From 1920-27, Ford owned the Dearborn Independent newspaper, which ran anti-Semitic articles dictated by and credited to the industrialist. The articles became a book titled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem,” a notorious tome that became affiliated with the Reichstag. Ford was reportedly admired by none other than Adolf Hitler, and in 1938, Ford accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi medal. Ford eventually renounced his writings.”

Henry Ford was indeed an anti-Semite, but the brief commentary in no way does justice to what Ford actually believed and how it impacted his company’s dealing, both while he was alive and after his death.

Henry Ford did own and operate the Dearborn Independent from 1919 – 1927, although his anti-Jewish beliefs had begun before that. When Ford took over the newspaper, he moved it to one of his factories. Henry Ford was also deeply influenced by the book, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. This book claimed there was a global Jewish conspiracy and that was a mix of global finance and global war-making. Ford even re-printed sections of the book in the Dearborn Independent, under a regular heading of, “The International Jew – The World’s Problem.”

Adolf Hitler did speak highly of Henry Ford and did award him a Nazi medal. What the MLive piece fails to mention is that the Ford Motor Company manufactured Nazi pins for Germany, that Henry Ford met with Nazi agents in his Detroit office and that the Ford Motor Company and Nazi Germany enjoyed a rather lengthy relationship all the way through the end of WWII.

According to Christopher Simpson’s book, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, the Ford Motor Company engaged in what was called the Aryanization of Germany. The Aryanization of Germany included the takeover of formerly-owned Jewish companies or Jewish land by the German state or by companies like the Ford Motor Company. In addition, Simpson documents the use of forced labor by the Ford Motor Company in Nazi Germany.

Edwin Black, in his book the, Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust, cites a 1945 US Army report, which called Ford, “the arsenal of Nazism” with the consent of the company in Dearborn.

The Ford Motor Company operated factories throughout Germany during WWII, for both automobile manufacturing and for the production of munitions for the Nazi army. (Nazi Nexus) In addition, the Ford Motor company was manufacturing vehicles that were used by the Nazi military up until at least 1944, mostly at their facilities in Detroit/Dearborn. This dynamic is well documented in Charles Higham’s book, Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933 – 1949.

Therefore, eulogizing the person of Henry Ford by the MLive reporter not only presents mostly useless information about one of the first automobile barons in the US, it misinforms the public about the real practices and policies of the Henry Ford and his Ford Motor Company.

AmplifyGR: How to “create opportunities” when you hold all the power

July 10, 2017

During the AmplifyGR town hall meeting that was held on June 29, many of the speakers kept on stating that they wanted to create opportunities for the people in the Southtown area. 

The CEO of Amway, Doug DeVos said he wanted to create opportunities for people in the area. Mike VanGessel, the CEO of Rockford Construction Company said he wanted to create opportunities and every speaker representing AmplifyGR also wanted to create opportunities for people living in the Boston Square area.

I have been thinking about this theme for the past few weeks and what it truly means when the DeVos Family says they want to create opportunities for people. In thinking about this theme, there are three responses that seem worth discussing when thinking about what it truly means when a member of the DeVos Family says they want to create opportunities for people.

First, it is important to acknowledge that when a member of a family that is worth billions says they want to create opportunities, we should be rather skeptical. How did the DeVos Family make its money, but by creating a company built on a pyramid scheme that exploits both the workers they hire and uses the human beings who sell their products.

We are all aware of the model that Amway uses, which is to get people to sell their product and to get those same people to find more people who want to do the same. This process creates a hierarchical structure, wherein those who recruit new sellers make money off of those they recruit. The few that are on top, those referred to as Diamond level distributors, will make a a ton of money just by virtue of the fact that they recruited people, who recruited people to sell Amway products. This dynamic does not create opportunities for people, but instead it creates benefits for the few, while most people do the hard work and end up with little to show for it. This essentially is the economic system of capitalism that we all live under.

Second, when the DeVos Family says they want to create opportunities for people, we need to seriously examine how much political influence they have in this community, in  Michigan and the rest of the country.

The DeVos Family spends millions of dollars on every election cycle, just like they during during the 2015 – 2016 election cycle, as has been well documented by the Lansing-based organization, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

This political spending by DeVos Family is designed to elect officials that are committed to the same ideological framework they embrace; which puts its emphasis on a neoliberal capitalist economic model, a reactionary social model and an exclusionary religious belief system.

The neoliberal economic model the DeVos family embraces supports a deregulated system, where there are no checks and balances by government structures at any level. However, at the same time, that the DeVos Family doesn’t want government to interfere with their ability to make as much money as they want, they also buy elected officials that promote tax policies which provide huge benefits to the wealthy and transfer more public money to the private sector – what we call subsidies.

The reactionary social model that the DeVos Family promotes is one that dismantles any form of a welfare state. This means they do not think that the government should provide any kind of safety net for those who are unemployed, disabled or struggle to meet basic needs like food and health care. This reactionary social model has resulted in policies like making Michigan a Right to Work state, which undermines the ability of labor unions to organize workers; it means dismantling public sector pensions and other benefits, which recently happened to Michigan teachers; it means denying same sex couples from adopting in Michigan and attempting to limit equal access to members of the LGBTQ community; and it means attacking the public education system and redirecting public money to support charter schools and private education systems through voucher programs, like what we have seen happening in Detroit in the past year

Therefore, the kinds of policy the DeVos Family has imposed on the rest of us through their financial support for political candidates, disproportionately takes away opportunities for working class people and communities of color, like the Boston Square neighborhood.

Third, the very fact that the DeVos Family has created AmplifyGR to promote this neighborhood re-development project should gives us all cause for concern. Besides the reasons we have already stated, what the AmplifyGR project does is that it creates an unfair and unjust power dynamic. It is bad enough when people with worth billions of dollars come into your community and say they want to provide you with opportunities, but they also have created a front group that they have been less than transparent about, to solicit input from residents about what they want. On top of that they (Rockford Construction and the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation) have purchased dozens of properties in the area, which makes them the single largest land owner in the Boston Square/Cottage Grove neighborhoods.

So, the DeVos Family/Rockford Construction Company controls a large portion of land in the Boston Square/Cottage Grove area, they have millions more they can invest to “create opportunities” – jobs, housing, etc., they have a track record of causing harm to the very people they claim to want to help and then they want to solicit input from the local residents? This is the kind of power dynamic they have created and bring to the residents of the Boston Square/Cottage Grove area.

What the DeVos Family/Rockford Construction Company has done is to come into a neighborhood that has been de-industrialized, has high rates of poverty and has suffered the consequences of decades of White Supremacy. And yet they have to audacity to say they simply want to help.

Betsy DeVos Watch: Religion, Education and Advancing God’s Kingdom

July 7, 2017

Late last month, the US Supreme Court decided on the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. 

The ruling was in support of Trinity Lutheran Church, which basically means that the State of Missouri must give taxpayer funding to a house of worship.

On the same day as this ruling, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, released the following brief statement

“This decision marks a great day for the Constitution and sends a clear message that religious discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated in a society that values the First Amendment. We should all celebrate the fact that programs designed to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based solely on religious affiliation.”

So why would the Secretary of Education weigh in on a decision from the US Supreme court, particularly since it is a separation of church and state matter?

The answer, for those who are familiar with Betsy DeVos’ background, has to do with the religious ideology that the DeVos and Prince families embrace and have attempted to impose on the rest of society for several decades now.

The Family Research Council, which the DeVos family has funded for several decades, released a statement in support of the courts’ decision, which reads in part: 

“At the heart of the First Amendment is the idea that Americans should be able to not just hold beliefs but follow those beliefs as they live their lives. The Free Exercise of religion, explicitly protected by the First Amendment, protects varied and robust religious expression in the public square. Certainly the Framers never meant to exclude churches from public life in the way the state of Missouri and lower courts have here.”

The Cato Institute, which has a long history of pushing for privatization of public education and an advocate for religious education, stated

“Today’s Trinity Lutheran ruling strikes a blow against patently unequal treatment of religious Americans under state laws, an inequality felt no more acutely than in education. But it does not yet get us to where we need to be.

The huge impact of today’s ruling is that it says religious institutions cannot be barred from participating in government programs simply because they are religious. The Trinity Lutheran Church could not be ruled ineligible to participate in a grant program to improve playgrounds simply because it is a religious entity. This should have been a simple decision: It is clearly unequal treatment of religious Americans under the law to say “the reason you are ineligible for this benefit for which anyone else is eligible is that you are religious.”

Both of these statements are reflective of the ideological framework within which Betsy DeVos views the world. For a more detailed analysis of the religious views that DeVos embraces so fervently, see Janet Reitman’s article in Rolling Stone, which was published earlier this year. 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State had a much different take on the courts’ decision, saying:

“Taxpayer-funded religion is bad for churches, communities and citizens. Americans United will continue to fight to buttress the church-state wall because that’s the only thing that can ensure true religious freedom for everyone. This ruling threatens to open the door to more taxpayer support for religion, which is at odds with our history, traditions and common sense.” 

The ACLU also came out against the court ruling, with the following statement

“Abandoning a longstanding constitutional protection for the separation of church and state, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that a church must be allowed to participate in a state program that provides direct taxpayer grants to improve school playground surfaces. The decision was very troubling. As we argued in our friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the government should not be funneling public funds directly to churches or other houses of worship, for any reason. Period.”

The statement from Betsy DeVos, in support of the US Supreme Court ruling that says the State of Missouri must use public money to fund a religious school, should not surprise us, but it should make us all worry about the commitment she has to furthering “God’s Kingdom.” This has been the commitment of both the DeVos and Prince families for decades, but now that Betsy is the Secretary of Education, she has an even greater platform in which to impose religious beliefs on the rest of US society. The question is, will we allow this to happen or fight against it?